View From The Board
Written By: Randy Emery
I have had the pleasure of sitting on a number of corporate and non-profit boards during my 46-year career, 11 if my memory is correct. While the idea is to be an advisor to management and fiduciary guard for the shareholders, it’s also an amazing learning experience. It’s an in-depth look into the management and operation of the respective company. You get to learn and understand the inside details of what works and what doesn’t. While each entity is different in nature and industry, there is a lot of common ground among all businesses.
And if you’re a student and pay attention, you will also learn a lot from your associate board members and management team. These are bright, well educated, and knowledgeable individuals with a whole host of experiences and backgrounds that are different from your own. Working with them is an inside opportunity to capitalize on their knowledge and insight into different situations.
What I want to share with you is not what a board member provides, but what they learn from the experience and come to appreciate about every company.
In 2015, Med One Group organized its first board of directors with outside members. Five of us were initially invited, and two have subsequently been added. We are well diversified and come from different backgrounds but also have a reasonable amount of similar experiences. Although we tend to see things from different angles, our end objective is to provide the best advice and counsel we can. It can be our different perspectives on similar situations or circumstances that really add value to a board discussion. It’s an opportunity for each of us to see through the eyes of others and collaborate on well-thought-out solutions, action plans, and strategies.
It’s also very different joining an existing board that has been functioning for several years, than to be part of the make-up of an entirely new board, as was the case with Med One. Imagine being part of the management team of a successful operation: “Who are these guys, and why do we need them?” What about being the new board member: “What is it they exactly do, and how do they do it, and why does it, or doesn’t it work?” Most importantly, “how can “I” bring value without interference?”
From everyone’s perspective, it’s a lot of questions, a lot. On the other hand, joining an existing board is a bit like starting a book in the middle. A lot of those questions are ground that has long since been plowed, and you need to catch up. So, a new board can be daunting for both the board members as well as the management team. “How much detail do we provide?” “How much do we ask for?” “What’s reasonable, and what’s unreasonable?” “Why all the questions?”
It’s a significant learning curve for all, on operational details, company history, as well as the personalities of each player. At a conference on corporate governance, a seasoned board executive astutely suggested that it’s a board member’s job to; “stick their nose in but keep their hands off.” A board member wants to know what, where, why, and how, but it is not their company to run, only to advise.
So how does this get done? One key is excellent communication. For a board to be effective, it is critical that there be open dialogue and exchange of thoughts and ideas in a manner that no one feels threatened by probing questions or embarrassed by random thoughts or ideas. Inside the board room, we question and challenge ideas, not individuals. The board is a forum to explore, probe, propose, and inquire as to how we cannot just protect what we have, but do even better with it. The better a board can do this, the more productive and effective a board can be.
It’s been about four years since our first meeting, and we have come a long way. I use “we” because I am referring to all of us, both the management team as well as the individual board members. We have gotten to know and understand the company and its players, both on a professional and personal basis. It has been a needed four years to not just learn about the company, but to also develop a relationship and an understanding of more than the facts, but the culture of the company. It’s been an opportunity to develop a system and routine that makes a board productive. And it’s an ongoing process.
When you think of what a board oversees, you tend to think about; leadership development, marketing, competition, profits, margins, and balance sheet management — it is all of these metrics along with the decisions and actions around managing them. As to Med One specifically, I came into this with extensive experience in the banking and leasing industry. I spent most of my career doing financial analysis and studying the metrics of what makes a company successful. I like to say, “We see the world through a set of filters that are made up of our own individual experiences.” Mine drive me to those metrics that measure a company and how to improve on them. Frankly, if it can’t be measured, I’m not sure what to do with it.
But Med One and its management team have taught me a lot beyond my previous experiences. Over these four years, I have personally come to appreciate many things about Med One, not the least of which are:
1. Just how much Larry and Brent value, respect, and care about every single employee in the company.
2. How culture, employees, and relationships are more important and valuable than just the economics.
3. How dedicated, intelligent, and hardworking each member of the management team is.
4. Just how effective and committed each executive officer runs their areas of responsibility.
5. But most impressive is how unselfish and sharing two owners can be.
Sure, we talk about financial performance, marketing and succession planning, etc. But we also spend a lot of time on customer service and the amazing work that Med One does. Most individuals think Med One is in the leasing business, as I did, but when you ask them, any of them, they will tell you something different – they make critical care medical equipment available to hospitals and clinics. They will lease it, they will rent it, they will sell it, and they will find it. But most importantly, they will make it available in some manner that is most cost-efficient to the hospital or clinic.
I’m constantly hearing stories about midnight deliveries, or cross-country treks to get equipment where it needs to be when it needs to be there. I’m constantly hearing about culture, attitude, commitment, and examples of above and beyond customer service. It’s these things that are the decisions and actions behind all those other measures of success.
I know a lot of companies can claim these things, and I suspect it may be true for them as well. But what I have learned about Med One by having an inside view is just how much culture, attitude, and commitment are a part of, and the measure of, Med One’s success. Med One is a family of dedicated individuals whose primary focus is to make available critical care medical equipment to improve better outcomes for patients. Everything else is just a byproduct.Prev Article Next Article